NZALPA Senior Technical Officer Dave Reynolds has represented NZALPA at security-related meetings over the last few months and shares some of his thoughts on what is happening in aviation security.
NZALPA is regarded as a valuable and trusted partner in the constant and ever evolving fight against terror attacks on aviation – nationally, regionally and internationally (through our links to our global representative body International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association).
The threat of terrorism in New Zealand remains real. Aviation is a very attractive terrorism target in terms of its impact (here and overseas). The attacks of 9/11 are a stark reminder should we ever doubt this, and demonstrate the ability of terrorists to exploit any vulnerability they can identify. Attacks can be mounted by individuals or small groups with extreme ideological, political or religious motives.
New Zealand is as vulnerable to terrorism as other countries due to the openness of the internet, the increasing number of international flights, and the presence in all societies of disconnected individuals who are susceptible to extremist messaging or ideology. The thwarted attacks on aviation in Sydney in July 2017 and the more recent Christchurch shootings show that distance is no barrier to terrorism.
New Zealand’s security threat level currently remains at ‘medium’ – meaning a terrorist attack, violent criminal behaviour, or violent protest activity is assessed as feasible and could well occur. This is the second highest of six terrorism alert levels where the lowest is ‘negligible’ - a terrorist attack, violent criminal behaviour, or violent protest activity is assessed as very unlikely; and the highest is ‘extreme’ – where terrorist activity is expected imminently. Thankfully we have never experienced an extreme level of threat. The scale is designed to inform and guide the Government’s risk assessment and risk management activities.
Following a recent review of domestic aviation security, the New Zealand Government is expected to announce changes. Currently only 56 per cent of domestic passengers are screened in New Zealand; differing markedly to Australia and Canada at 96 and 99 per cent respectively.
We also have a variety of screening requirements at different New Zealand airfields with the current jet operational airports as a primary focus. Once again there is an option to broaden this. We can’t afford to underestimate the ingenuity of terrorists. New technologies and random screening are widely used elsewhere and could be adopted here.
We can be very confident that current security provisions will change as a result of the recent review.
As pilots and air traffic controllers we have key roles to play as the eyes and ears of aviation security - on and off the aircraft and through our adoption of any new technologies and processes introduced by the government to keep all those in aviation safe.
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